Diabetic foot ulcer refers to sores that occur in the foot of a diabetic patient. It is due to nerve damage and narrowing of blood vessels which are the major complications of elevated blood sugar seen in diabetic patients. This makes it difficult for diabetics to notice when they have a sore or an infection on their foot.
It is estimated that about 425 million adults have diabetes worldwide. An average of 7% of the world population are diabetic now and this number is expected to increase to 8.3% by 2030. It is also estimated that 80% of diabetic patients live in developing countries.
The International Diabetes Federation reported that people with diabetes may be 25 times more likely to require amputation of a limb than those without the metabolic condition.
Treatment of diabetic foot ulcer is difficult and expensive. Patients usually need to take long-term medications or become hospitalized for an extended period of time. It is estimated that about 15-25% of diabetic patients develop diabetic foot ulcers during their life-time. It is therefore very important we prevent this scourge.
Here are some simple steps to prevent a diabetic foot ulcer;
- Ensure proper control of blood sugar; keep your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check. This can prevent most of the complications related to diabetes, including non-healing diabetic foot ulcers. It is important you take your medications regularly and go for routine checkup with your health care provider.
- Check your foot daily; The maceration on the feet especially between the toes is usually caused by fungal infection and should be observed carefully. It is recommended to use a mirror to check your foot daily so as to properly observe the plantar surface of the foot.
- Don’t wear tight shoes; it is important to wear shoes that have adequate space so as to avoid easy bruising of the feet. Bruising can predispose to unhealing ulcers.
- Lifestyle modification; proper diet and exercise are needed to maintain god blood sugar level and to be healthy. All these also help to reduce the chances of having foot ulcers.
- Avoid smoking; Nicotine which is found in cigarettes causes narrowing of the blood vessels and thus increases the risk of having diabetic foot ulcers. Diabetes also leads to peripheral arterial disease (PAD), a condition that restricts blood flow to the feet and legs.
- Trim your toe nails regularly and avoid nail manipulations that can cause a wound.
- Protect your feet from infection; wash your feet with lukewarm water (not hot water so as to avoid scald injury) and dry thoroughly. It is important to dry the inter-digital spaces between the toes very carefully. It is also important to always wear footwear both indoors and outdoors.
Once you discover you have a poorly healing wound especially on your feet it is most likely a sign of poorly controlled diabetes. Please see your healthcare provider immediately
It is also important diabetic patients report to their clinic once they notice any foot ulcer or diabetic related wounds for prompt treatment.